Guest Post By Mark Feffer
When talking to a prospective employer, you’re obviously thinking about how the job’s pay and benefits align with your skills and experience. But at the same time, you should be considering how well you’ll fit into the company’s culture. After all, you’re going to spend an awful lot of time at work, and whether the environment matches your approach and personality will have a lot to do with whether you succeed—or don’t.
The interview offers a prime opportunity to get a sense of the employer’s culture. It’s simply a question of paying attention to your surroundings and how people treat you—and each other—during your visit. Here are some things to look for:
They say first impressions count. When you entered the office, how were you treated? If there wasn’t a receptionist, did you stand around for a while before anyone noticed you, or did someone greet you and offer you a chair and a cup of coffee? Were they friendly while they did it, or did you feel like a distraction? How people respond to visitors provides a good indication of whether the company’s looking to build a team or simply get a body in the door.
What’s the Buzz?
As you’re walking through the office, pay attention to the noise level. It’s always interesting to notice whether people are talking to their coworkers or are simply intent on their screens. If they’re conferring at a desk, in the hallway, or in a conference room, observe their body language and energy levels. You’ll be able to tell if people are engaged in their conversations and relaxed in their interactions. The question to ask yourself: Is this the kind of environment I want to work in?
The Break Room
If you’re offered coffee or water, take the opportunity to check out what’s going on in the break room. If people there are formal and don’t talk very much with their coworkers, that hints at a culture where relationships aren’t very important. Or, workers may feel they don’t have even a minute to spend away from their desks.
Take note of the layout too. A room without tables hints at a company that’s more interested in having you stay at your desk than allowing you to catch your breath occasionally. Tables, sofas, easy chairs, and a television indicate the firm recognizes that people need to clear their heads every once in awhile, and that socializing with your coworkers can be a good thing.
Cube Sweet Cube
Engaged people tend to nest. If the cubicles have bare walls and desks empty of family pictures, that’s a sign people come to this office because they have to—not because they want to. When people take the time to personalize their workspace, it means they’re vested in being there.
Look and Listen
You can tell a lot about a company’s culture by observing how people interact with their coworkers. Every time you’re introduced to someone, take note of whether they’re cordial or formal, whether they’re relaxed or seem to be “on stage” while they’re talking to you or their colleagues. Easy conversation is a good sign that people work well together.
Finally, don’t be afraid to ask questions about the workplace and the culture. Inquiring about what type of culture the company tries to maintain, whether a workplace is always so quiet (or raucous), and what managers do to foster a commitment to the corporate mission can help you to get a sense of what it’s like to work somewhere day-to-day.
Interviewing is a two-way street: It’s as much about you checking out the employer as it is the employer evaluating you. Use your time visiting the company to get a sense of what the workplace is really like. The job might feel like a perfect fit, but it’s tough to perform in an environment that doesn’t match your personality.
Mark Feffer has written, edited, and produced hundreds of articles on careers, personal finance, and technology. His work has appeared on Dice.com, Entrepreneur.com, as well as on other top sites. He is currently writing for JobsinRI.com, the top local resource for job seekers, employers, and recruiters in Rhode Island.
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About the author
Jessica Hernandez, President, CEO & Founder of Great Resumes Fast
Hi, I’m Jessica. I started this company back in 2008 after more than a decade directing hiring practices at Fortune 500 companies.
What started as a side hustle (before that was even a word!) helping friends of friends with their resumes has now grown into a company that serves hundreds of happy clients a year. But the personal touch? I’ve kept that.
You might have seen me featured as a resume expert in publications like Forbes, Fast Company, and Fortune. And in 2020, I was honored to be named as a LinkedIn Top Voice of the year!
I’m so glad you’re here, and I can’t wait to help you find your next perfect-fit position!
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